Year-long weight loss classes cut NHS costs and improve patient health

Weight loss programmes that continue for a year instead of the current 12-week standard could reap long-term cost benefits for the NHS and help patients lose more weight for longer, research suggests.

Extending weight loss programmes helps very overweight patients keep more weight off, and is cost-effective in the long term, according to research published in the Lancet.

It suggests offering year-long programmes of weekly weight loss classes could prevent an additional 1,786 cases of disease for every 100,000 patients compared to the 12-week courses currently adopted by the NHS.

Costs saved from not having to treat these diseases – including hypertension, diabetes and heart disease – will offset the higher upfront costs of implementing the changes, the researchers said.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge, University of Liverpool and University of Oxford, followed over 1,200 patients who had a BMI over 28.

Subjects enrolled onto year-long programmes lost an average 6.8kg once the year was up, compared to 4.8kg at the same time point for patients who attended the 12-week programme. Patients who received one-off advice and a self-help book lost 3.3kg.

Weight loss programmes

These differences were maintained two years post-beginning treatment, with participants who attended year-long programmes being an average 4.3kg lighter than their starting weight, while 12-week attenders were 3.0kg lighter.

Compared to other participants, those in the year-long programme also had significantly greater reductions in fasting blood glucose and glycosylated haemoglobin – reducing their risk of diabetes.

RCGP vice chair Professor Martin Marshall said: ‘Obesity related conditions – such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease – can have a devastating impact on our patients’ long term health and wellbeing, so any initiatives that help patients to take action to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle should be encouraged.

‘Rates of obesity are continuing to rise across the UK, costing the NHS billions each year, and if weight management programmes can help patients lose weight and lead to long-term behaviour change that can improve their overall health – as this study shows they can – they could save our health service huge amounts of money in the future.’

Professor Susan Jebb, senior author of the study, said: ‘Our results also show that, in the long-term, weight loss groups are cost-effective for society as a whole because they are likely to reduce future healthcare expenditure by preventing costly conditions such as diabetes and coronary heart disease.’

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